Wild fourth quarter ends with Clemson as CFP champs

Clemson CFP champion after epic rematch with Alabama (5:10)

Trailing by three points in the waning seconds of the College Football Playoff National Championship, Clemson rallies past Alabama as Deshaun Watson connects with Hunter Renfrow on a 2-yard touchdown, lifting the Tigers to a 35-31 victory. (5:10)

TAMPA, Fla. -- So many thought it would be different.

Alabama's defense was so much better and so much more suited to face Deshaun Watson. Yes, Crimson Tide quarterback Jalen Hurts was a freshman, but he had enough horsepower around him to outrun Clemson.

For most of the game, all of that was coming to fruition.

Until the fourth quarter.

That, folks, is when championships are won and lost. On Monday night, that's when Clemson upended mighty Alabama with a 2-yard pass to the Tide slayer himself, Hunter Renfrow, in the Tigers' 35-31 win over Alabama in the College Football Playoff National Championship presented by AT&T.

Given how badly Clemson wanted this and how much Alabama just had to win it because of how historically good it looked before Monday, it had to end this way. A wild fourth quarter was the only way to do it.

You had Clemson outscoring mighty Alabama -- the fourth-quarter king -- 21-7 in the final frame, thanks to back-to-back drives of 88 and 68 yards. Renfrow, who gutted Alabama's defense last year, was the hero with his 10 catches for 92 yards and two scores, but Deshaun Watson, who cemented his Clemson legacy, was the engineer.

Rocked time after time, he stood back up and delivered when it mattered most. Watson's fourth quarter was one for the ages, as he needed only six plays for what we all thought was his game-winning drive to put the Tigers up 28-24 with 4 minutes, 38 seconds left.

Of course, the Tide, who had failed to convert 11 straight third downs going into the ensuing drive, charged down the field for a 68-yard touchdown drive that could have won the game. It could have won the game because when the Tide needed a pass, wide receiver ArDarius Stewart hit tight end O.J. Howard for a 24-yard strike. And when Alabama needed another throw, Hurts broke through the pocket and slipped by Clemson defenders for a beautiful 30-yard touchdown run.

But when the game needed to be won, it was Watson who promoted the orange-and-purple confetti celebration that left a couple of Clemson players somersaulting and back flipping their way onto the field.

This one took nine excruciating and heart-pounding plays, such as that 24-yard dart to Mike Williams early and the 17-yard beaut to tight end Jordan Leggett that put the ball at the Alabama 9-yard line with the time rushing off the clock.

Then, like so many times before, it was Watson to Renfrow, who slipped past a pick to come free in the front corner of the end zone. He then calmly flipped his historic catch to the ref as his teammates mauled him.

A fantastic end to a fantastic game has given the college football world a new true king. Mighty Alabama was dethroned by having its superb defense vanquished against the very team it sought to "dominate," as cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick proudly stated earlier this week.

But on Monday night -- really, early Tuesday morning -- it was Clemson that did the late dominating. It was Clemson that came out on top.

It was Clemson that Clemsoned its way to its first national title since 1981 and sent Alabama's 2016 team into the depths of the what-could-have-beens.